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Libya: Positive steps needed to break ‘political stalemate’

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Libya continues to struggle to recover from conflict and insecurity. UNOCHA/Giles Clarke

The interdependent tracks of implementing Libya’s ceasefire agreement, political progress and economic reform, are in danger of going into reverse, UN Special Envoy Ján Kubiš warned the Security Council on Thursday.

“Positive steps are now needed to avoid backsliding”, he told the ministerial-level meeting.  

To avoid a return to conflict, violence and chaos, Mr. Kubiš, who also heads the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), underscored the “overwhelming demand and expectations” of both Libya’s citizens and the international community for timely elections that are necessary to complete the country’s democratic transition.

‘Walk the talk’ 

Despite wide-ranging meetings resulting in commitments to hold elections on 24 December, the UN official said that many of his interlocuters “are not ready to walk the talk”. 

Noting that the constitutional basis for elections “should have been clarified by now”, he said that even after extensive sessions in Geneva last month, members of the decision-making Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) remained “fragmented”.  

“Because of this failure of both constitutional reform bodies and the LPDF, the situation in Libya is getting more difficult, confrontational, and tense”, said the UNSMIL chief.  

“Institutional, political and individual interests” stand in the way of finalizing the necessary legal framework for holding December elections, he said, calling those obstructing progress, “spoilers”. 

Political ramifications  

The UN official expressed deep concern over the wider consequences of the political and electoral stalemate. 

He warned that if the impasse is not resolved quickly, it could reverse the positive momentum seen just a few months. 

“The ramifications of the political impasse and the risk it poses to other key national priorities”, particularly on the security and economic side, “are already beginning to manifest themselves”, Mr. Kubiš cautioned.  

Ceasefire implementation 

Although the October ceasefire agreement continues to hold, the UN envoy raised concern over the unity of the military representatives from the opposing sides, called the 5+5 Libyan Joint Military Commission (JMC), fearing that the agreement could unravel if the political process remains stalled.  

Stressing JMC’s “vital role” in implementing the agreement and paving the way for political progress, he emphasized that “every effort” must be made to “preserve its unity” and insulate its work from the “political stalemate”.    

The Government and 5+5 JMC have indicated that the main task of the UN component should be the monitoring the withdrawal of mercenaries and foreign fighters, rather than verifying compliance with the ceasefire agreement.   

Mr. Kubiš said “it is imperative that Libyan and international actors agree on a plan to commence and complete withdrawal”. 

He also warned of renewed terrorist activities by violent extremists, particularly the in south, and urged those with a stake in Libya’s security, to jointly address the threat. 

IDPs, migrants and refugees  

While the overall humanitarian situation has improved since the ceasefire, serious challenges remain in ensuring that returned internally displaced people (IDPs) have adequate and sustained access to basic services, such as healthcare and education facilities. 

The UN official noted that planned and often forced evictions targeting IDP communities by Libyan authorities is a growing concern, as are migrants and refugee attacks, reminding that “forced evictions without due process are human rights violations”. 

At the same time, the migrant and refugee situation remains “dire” as the number of people attempting to cross the Mediterranean continues to increase. 

“By 26 June, the Libyan Coast Guard intercepted and returned to Libya 14,751 migrants and refugees, exceeding the total number of all returnees in 2020”, he said, urging the Government to “swiftly approve” the resumption of humanitarian evacuation and voluntary resettlement and return of migrant and refugees from Libya.  

Concluding on a positive note, Mr. Kubiš reported that the Committee of Libyan Experts on Combating Violence Against Women adopted in June the first comprehensive draft legislation in the Middle East region on combating violence against women.

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Tech News

Standards & Digital Transformation – Good Governance in a Digital Age

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In celebration of World Standards Day 2021, celebrated on 14 October every year, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) is pleased to announce the launch of a brochure, “Standards and Digital Transformation: Good Governance in the Digital Age”.

In the spirit of this year’s World Standards Day theme “Shared Vision for a Better World”, the brochure provides insights into the key drivers of the digital transformation and its implications for sustainable development, particularly people, prosperity and planet. Noting the rapid pace of change of the digital transformation, with the COVID-19 pandemic serving as an unanticipated accelerator, the brochure highlights the role of standards in digital transformation governance. It further considers the principles necessary for guiding the collaborative development of standards in the digital technology landscape to ensure that the technologies remain human-centered and aligned to the goals of sustainability.

This year’s World Standards Day theme highlights the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) representing a shared vision for peace and prosperity, for people and planet. Every SDG is a call for action, but we can only get there if we work together, and international standards offer practical solutions we can all stand behind.

This brochure is a summary of a publication set to be released in November 2021.

Download it here.

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Human Rights

UN: Paraguay violated indigenous rights

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An indigenous community in Paraguay wait to receive their COVID-19 vaccination. WHO/PAHO

Paraguay’s failure to prevent the toxic contamination of indigenous people’s traditional lands by commercial farming violates their rights and their sense of “home”, the UN Human Rights Committee said in a landmark ruling on Wednesday. 

The Committee, which is made up of 18 independent experts from across the world, monitors countries’ adherence to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  

Lands represent ‘home’ 

The decision on Paraguay (in Spanish) marked the first time it has affirmed that for indigenous people, “home” should be understood in the context of their special relationship with their territories, including their livestock, crops and way of life.  

“For indigenous peoples, their lands represent their home, culture and community. Serious environmental damages have severe impacts on indigenous people’s family life, tradition, identity and even lead to the disappearance of their community. It dramatically harms the existence of the culture of the group as a whole,” said Committee member Hélène Tigroudja. 

The decision stems from a complaint filed more than a decade ago on behalf of some 201 Ava Guarani people of the Campo Agua’e indigenous community, located in Curuguaty district in eastern Paraguay. 

The area where they live is surrounded by large commercial farms which produce genetically modified soybeans through fumigation, a process which involves the use of banned pesticides. 

Traditional life affected 

Fumigation occurred continuously for more than 10 years and affected the indigenous community’s whole way of life, including killing livestock, contaminating waterways and harming people’s health. 

The damage also had severe intangible repercussions, according to the UN committee.  The disappearance of natural resources needed for hunting, fishing and foraging resulted in the loss of traditional knowledge.  For example, ceremonial baptisms no longer take place as necessary materials no longer exist. 

“By halting such ceremonies, children are denied a rite crucial to strengthening their cultural identity,” the Committee said.  “Most alarmingly, the indigenous community structure is being eroded and disintegrated as families are forced to leave their land.” 

Toxic exposure 

The indigenous community brought the case to the Human Rights Committee after a lengthy and unsatisfactory administrative and judicial process in Paraguay’s courts. 

“More than 12 years after the victims filed their criminal complaint regarding the fumigation with toxic agrochemicals, to which they have continued to be exposed throughout this period, the investigations have not progressed in any meaningful way and the State party has not justified the delay,” the Committee said in its decision. 

Recommendations, reparations 

Members found Paraguay did not adequately monitor the fumigation and failed to prevent contamination, adding “this failure in its duty to provide protection made it possible for the large-scale, illegal fumigation to continue for many years, destroying all components of the indigenous people’s family life and home.”  

The Committee recommended that Paraguay complete the criminal and administrative proceedings against all parties responsible and make full reparation to the victims. 

The authorities are also urged to take all necessary measures, in close consultation with the indigenous community, to repair the environmental damage, and to work to prevent similar violations from occurring in the future. 

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Development

Vaccination, Jobs, and Social Assistance are All Key to Reducing Poverty in Central Asia

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As the pace of economic recovery picks up, countries in Central Asia have an opportunity to return to pre-pandemic levels of poverty reduction – if they put in place the right policies. This was the overall message shared by World Bank economists today at a regional online event “Overcoming the Pandemic and Ending Poverty in Central Asia”.

In the early 2000s, Central Asian countries were among the world’s best performers in poverty reduction. Starting in 2009, however, the pace of progress began to slow and even stagnated in some of the countries. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted a region already struggling to generate inclusive growth and end extreme poverty. Now in the second year of the pandemic, poverty rates in Central Asia are falling again, but with high inflation and low vaccination rates, the poor and the most vulnerable continue to suffer from food insecurity, uncertainty, and limited employment opportunities, especially for women.

“Central Asia is recovering from the first shocks of the pandemic, albeit in uneven ways,” said Will Seitz, World Bank Senior Economist in Central Asia. “Migration and remittances, key drivers of poverty reduction in the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, are quickly returning to 2019 levels. Labor markets are also recovering, and work disruptions are much less common. However, the region is yet to get on a stable poverty reduction path.”

Among policy priorities to reduce poverty, the World Bank is focused on three key areas: widespread vaccination, increasing employment and wages, and strengthening social assistance programs to support the most vulnerable. To support labor market recovery, the World Bank economists outlined short-term and medium-term measures, including the need to invest in green jobs and encouraging the creation and growth of firms.

It was also stressed that employment alone will not address all drivers of poverty, and strong safety nets are essential to protect the most vulnerable. Compared with other middle-income countries, Central Asian governments typically provide smaller shares of their populations with social assistance.

“Along with ensuring fair, broad access to effective and safe COVID-19 vaccines, Central Asian countries need to urgently address vaccination hesitancy, as it threatens to slow down the recovery,” said Tatiana Proskuryakova, World Bank Regional Director for Central Asia. “For every million people vaccinated, global GDP recovers on average nearly $8 billion. We are expecting advanced economies with relatively high vaccination rates to demonstrate much better growth rates than developing economies with low vaccination rates.”

Among the main reasons behind vaccine hesitancy in Central Asian countries are worries about vaccine contraindication and safety. While people with pre-existing health conditions in other countries are usually prioritized for vaccination, in the Central Asia region they are more likely to be hesitant to get vaccinated. Providing the public with accurate information on the safety of vaccines and encouraging people with pre-existing health conditions to be vaccinated may help address hesitancy issues.

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